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Senior band and choir member David Hojnowski holding the Esprit de Corps Award earned my Mount Anthony Union musicians at the Music in the Parks festival in Williamsburg, Virginia. (Supplied photo)
Senior band and choir member David Hojnowski holding the Esprit de Corps Award earned my Mount Anthony Union musicians at the Music in the Parks festival
Senior band and choir member David Hojnowski holding the Esprit de Corps Award earned my Mount Anthony Union musicians at the Music in the Parks festival in Williamsburg, Virginia. (Supplied photo)

BENNINGTON -- Eighty-one members of Mount Anthony Union High School's bands and choirs recently traveled to Willamsburg, Virginia to participate in the Music in the Parks festival.

Each of the four ensembles, the band, jazz band, choir, and select choir performed before college music professors, and received ratings of either "good" or "excellent." The select choir took first place in their category, defeating 15 other participating schools. Additionally, the students from MAU received the Esprit de Corps award, which is awarded the school that displays, "the common spirit existing in a group and inspiring enthusiasm, devotion, and strong regard for the honor of the group," said choir director Lynn Sweet.

According to information provided to Sweet about the festival, the award is, "presented to students from a school who demonstrated proper social behavior as well as musical behavior/encouragement. They possess the qualities of highly successful people who are sensitive to the feelings of others and applaud accomplishments no matter if by one's own school or another school. Evaluation has taken place from arrival at the festival site to the awards presentation. All schools are eligible for this award, but only one group will have the honor of taking this trophy with them back to their school."

In addition to participating in the festival, students also spent time at Busch Gardens amusement park and in historic Colonial Williamsburg.

The Music in the Parks festival, which is held at more than 40 amusement parks across the country, was founded by Dr. James R. Wells in 1981. The program, organized by the Educational Programs Network, hosts more than 220,000 music students every year. Students participate in either a one- or two-day festival, during which they perform, spend some time in the park, and attend the awards ceremony. The program's mission, according to their website, is to "bring together students and adjudicators in a positive learning environment that will inspire the students to strive not only for excellence, but to make music a lifelong activity."

Wells, who completed his doctorate at Columbia University and taught music education classes at West Chester University, saw in the late 70s the need for a music festival planned by music educators, rather than travel agents, in which the music was placed at the center of the event. While after the first year the performances were held at local schools, rather than in the parks themselves, in order to provide a better performance environment, the name of the program remained the same. Today, the program is organized by four full-time festival directors and 25 regional coordinators, all music educators. According to Music in the Parks' website, every year, one out of 10 music departments in the United States participates in the program.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB